Summary: This morning we’re going to look at the last seven stop on James’ roadmap for drawing near to God.
How To Draw Near To God (Part 2)
Preached by Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
July 8, 2001
Introduction: Two weeks ago we began to look at what can be described as a ten-stop road map for drawing near to God. James, in chapter four, verses 7-10, of his letter gives us ten definitive commands to be followed in order to draw near to God.
Remember, a general theme throughout James’ letter is that he wants to see the genuineness of his readers’ faith, not hear lip service about how faithful they are. And we also need to remember James’ tone of voice in this passage. He is rattling off a series of commands with a definite sense of urgency. Finally, let’s not forget that what James is laying out for us in this passage is not a formula, per se, for receiving salvation.
James is not saying, “Do, this, this, and this and you will earn salvation.” James, particularly in chapter two of his letter, agrees with Paul that we can do nothing to save ourselves. It is through the gift of God’s grace that a person is saved from their sins. What James is spelling out for us is a list of commands, if followed, will serve as evidence in a person’s life that their faith is genuine.
Let’s read James 4:1-10 again this morning.
As we began our study of this passage, we looked at the first three of the ten commands. We looked at the command to submit. James writes, “Submit therefore to God.” We looked at the command to resist. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” And we looked at the command to be near, which James followed with a great promise. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
But the promise in the first half of verse eight is not the end of James’ roadmap—a roadmap that finds the “x” marking the spot of authentic joy in the presence of the holy God. No, James calls his readers to do a little more traveling. But the remainder of the journey, the last seven stops on James’ map may not seem to be as positive as the first three. In fact, as we continue our journey toward drawing near to God, you are going to hear words like, “cleanse,” “sinner,” “weep,” and “mourning.”
You may find that because of conditions and circumstances in your own life that some of these words look more like potholes than stops on the roadmap for drawing near to God. If that’s the case—good. That might be exactly where God wants you this morning. Let me encourage you with this. Now, some of you may look at what I’m about to say as more of a forewarning than encouragement. We are not going to step around the potholes. We are not going to put up roadblocks with flashing orange lights over the hazards. We’re not going to plant pretty flowers around the potholes in order to make them more pleasing to the senses.
We’re going to deal with the potholes by filling them in with the dirt and gravel of repentance, and the tar of the truth of God’s word; and resurfacing them with the impenetrable concrete of God’s amazing grace. Although the work has already been completed by the sufficiency of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we may find that the remainder of our journey on the road to drawing near to God will result in a little sweat, a little pain, and maybe even a few tears. But be encouraged, whether the seven commands we’re going to look at this morning appear to you as stops or potholes, the “x” still marks the spot of drawing near to God, where every one of us should long to be.
Let’s dig in!
Stops #4 and #5 — Washing & Purifying
In the second half of verse eight we read, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” We’re going to look at the fourth and fifth stops on James’ roadmap at the same time. Think of these two stops as twin cities, like Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The first stop, “washing,” deals with the external aspects of our life, and the fifth stop, “purifying,” deals with the internal. “Together [these two stops] . . . call for a radical repentance that embraces the total person” (Moo, p. 194)—inside and out. That’s right. If you want to draw near to God in an authentic and intimate way, genuine repentance is a prerequisite. And here we see it as a command, not a suggestion.
In this phrase we have probably the strongest evidence in the entire passage for the argument that James is, at the very least, including unbelievers in what he is saying. And the evidence lies within the use of the word “sinners.” The word “sinners,” by definition, is an all-inclusive term. Every man, woman, and child who ever lived, is living today, and who will be born on this earth, with the exception of Jesus Christ, is a sinner. A sinner is anyone “who act[s] contrary to the law of God” (Davids, p. 167).